Around 95 per cent of maintained schools given freedom over where they buy services have signed up to EduKent

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Schools given freedom over where they buy education services are snubbing independent providers in favour of council support.

A massive 95 per cent of maintained schools which have so far chosen not to convert to academies are sticking with what they know and have bought contracts with EduKent, a new Kent County Council education package.

Last year the authority agreed to hand over £8m of central Government funds directly to maintained schools so they could have the same control as academies over support services.

Traditionally, a portion of this dedicated schools grant was retained by KCC to carry out a number of functions on behalf of schools.

Academies, however, have always been given state funding directly which they use to buy services, such as support for special education needs, teacher recruitment and catering, from service providers, including KCC.

Fears were raised last year that the high number of academies emerging could push KCC to “tipping point” – when it is uneconomic for the council to provide services automatically to maintained schools – prompting the council to agree to hand over funds directly to those schools.

Education chiefs at County Hall said this would create a level playing field and reduce the gap in funding between academies and their council-managed counterparts.

However, it would mean KCC acting as a service provider, competing with other businesses.

But since the radical change came in three months ago, the majority of schools have stuck by KCC.

Its new EduKent package, specially created in response to the radical shake-up in education, offers more than 40 education support services all from one source in a one-stop-shop.

Cabinet member for education, learning and skills at KCC, Cllr Mike Whiting, said schools’ decision to use the package was a vote of confidence.

“I am always proud of how forward thinking we are in Kent and the decision to devolve £8m of the dedicated schools grant is a prime example of this,” he said.

“All schools in Kent, maintained and academies, deserve the same level of freedoms in deciding how they spend their money and the devolved budget allows them to do this to better the education of their pupils.

“Schools know their pupils and their specific needs best and they can now cater for them much more effectively.”

He added: “EduKent provides quality educational support services and it seems that schools are in complete agreement.”

KCC said additional funding from the Government’s pupil premium scheme, which looks to support disadvantaged children, is helping children and young people from low income families.

“Headteachers and governing bodies are using this money to help and support these pupils with their learning,” the council said.

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